By chuckatomx | November 14, 2014

by Chuck Black

It’s only been four years since Toronto based Centennial College officially started the campaign to move its aerospace programs to a new facility in the old Downsview Park DeHavilland facility. But according to Andrew Petrou, the co-founder of the Downsview Aerospace Cluster for Innovation and Research (DAIR), the real genesis of the move goes back almost twenty years.

Andrew-Petrou-presenting (1) Andrew Petrau presenting the plans for the DAIR Research Hub to be developed at Downsview Park in Toronto. Photo c/o Alex Urosevic/MEDTE

It’s only been recently that we've been able to put together the major players needed to get a facility of this nature off the ground in Canada,” Petrou said during a recent interview. “Up until now, the players have been trapped in silos and unable to engage in the cross pollination and communication necessary to build a true innovative culture.”

The first real break came when the 2012 Federal Report on the Aerospace Review (the "Emerson Review") identified “one of the significant constraints to industry growth” as being “an aging workforce and skilled labour shortage.”

The Emerson Review served as the primary motivation for the July, 2014 Federal Pre-Budget Submission by Centennial College on behalf of the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) Working Group which recommended the “creation of the Aerospace Hub at Downsview Park” which would be “projected to facilitate the development of up to 14,400 sustainable jobs over the next 20 years.” The report also called for the creation of what was now called an “aerospace hub,” which could help increase the “competitive advantage in the aerospace industry for both Ontario and Canada.”

Kathleen-Wynne Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) tours a Centennial College aviation/avionics labs with Centennial College President Ann Buller. As outlined in the March 2014 Site Canada article, " Cultivating Ontario’s Aerospace Future at Downsview Park." the provincial government, city leaders and an assortment of economic development entities stand firmly behind the venture. Photo c/o Queens Printer.

From there, events moved quickly towards the October, 2013 announcement that Centennial College would receive up to $26 Mln CDN from the Ontario provincial government to relocate its aviation programs to Downsview.

Suddenly, there was this new perception that we needed to complete globally and work together to build sustainable research and training facilities. The aerospace hub will provide a useful geographic area where industry and academic stakeholders can co-locate and collaborate,” said Petrou, who also holds the position of Chief Learning Officer at Centennial College and is well placed to understand how to connect the disparate components of the plan.

According to Petrou, the existing Bombardier Aerospace and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) facilities at Downsview (which includes a 7000 ft. asphalt runway and subway access), are well positioned to serve as the core of the proposed facility.

Academic partners are expected to include Centennial, the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), Ryerson, York University and others.

DAIR is expecting an announcement over the next little while, which will help to formalize the plans,” according to Petrou.  No doubt, others are also waiting for the announcement.

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